The Department of Homeland Security insisted that illegal immigrants are crossing the border in droves with children who don’t belong to them after the president claimed without evidence that ‘grabbers’ might be dragging kids who are not their blood relatives toward tear gas at the border.
President Trump claimed that so-called ‘grabbers’ are snatching up children to get special treatment when they apply for asylum.
That was how he explained images that tested the national conscience on Monday of children fleeing tear gas during a confrontation between some immigrants and Border Patrol a day before.
DHS attempted to back up the president’s claim with statistics that showed more that 507 illegal immigrants who claimed to be part of a family unit were not related to the children they were toting. It specifically pointed to a group of 197 adults who falsely claimed to be related to 139 juveniles.
‘Over the last two years, we have seen a 110 percent increase in male adults showing up at the border with minors,’ a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security told reporters in an email.
Homeland Security provided the data in response to ‘misreporting’ on family separations and the ‘rampant fraud’ it says it taking place at the southern border.
The information push followed reporting on the president’s claims that his administration was not using pepper spray on children. He later suggested immigrants were grabbing kids who weren’t theirs and rushing the border.
Trump asked reporters why adults claiming to be the children’s parents were anywhere near the tear gas in the first place.
‘And, in some cases, you know, they’re not the parents. These are people, they call them grabbers. They grab a child, because they think they’re going to have a certain status by grabbing a child,’ he claimed.
The president had been prodded to say how it made him feel to see women and children running from the fumes after denying earlier in the day that his administration had intentionally tossed canisters of pepper spray at them on Sunday during a confrontation with a group of migrants who threw rocks and bottles at border agents.
‘Well I do say, why were they there?’ he immediately responded. ‘First of all, the tear gas is a very minor form of the tear gas itself. It’s very safe. The ones that were suffering to a certain extent were the people that were putting it out there. But it’s really safe.
‘But you really say why is a parent running up into an area, where they know the tear gas is forming, and they know it’s going to be formed, and they’re running up with a child,’ he pondered aloud.
President Trump denied that border patrol agents fired tear gas on children over the weekend during a confrontation with a group of migrants
A migrant family, part of a caravan of thousands traveling from Central America en route to the United States, ran away from tear gas in front of the border wall between the U.S and Mexico in Tijuana on Sunday
News photographers on the Mexican side of the border captured images of Honduran children crying after running away from tear gas in Tijuana on Sunday
U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while officers in California held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence; they fired gas canisters and winds blew the fumes southward toward the advancing crowd
Trump went on to claim that they could be ‘grabbers,’ a term he said that he’d ‘heard’ is used to describe migrants who make false claims about children they’re traveling with in order to receive preference when they apply for asylum.
‘They grab a child because when they have a child they feel a lot safer. I don’t know who was there yesterday. I will say this. When you know there’s going to be potential violence, you know there’s going to be tear gas or something, you don’t take your child and bring them there,’ he argued. ‘So I can’t tell you that, but I can say that all over the border you have a lot of grabbers, you have a lot of people that grab children and they have no idea who these children are.’
His latest border crisis remarks followed claims at the White House as he departed for Mississippi that his administration does not and did not tear gas children.
‘They’re not – as you know, they’re not,’ he told a reporter. ‘They had to use [it] because they were being rushed by some very tough people. And they used tear gas,’ he argued. ‘And here’s the bottom line: Nobody’s coming into our country unless they come in legally.’
He insisted again, several minutes later, as he was asked by DailyMail.com is gassing children is appropriate that his administration hasn’t. ‘We didn’t. We don’t use it on children,’ he asserted a second time.
Photographs of the scene showed a mother and her diaper-wearing children, one of whom was barefoot, fleeing a canister emitting gas. Trump at first claimed that women and children were hit with tear gas as migrants attempted to storm the southern border.
He seemed to later admit that they had been hit, but only with a ‘minor form’ of tear gas, as he suggested they were not blood relations of the youngsters and had been running toward and not away from the scrum.
Applauding his administration for showing strength at the border, he told rally-goers in Biloxi, Mississippi: ‘If we didn’t do that you would have hundreds of thousands of people pouring into our country.
‘We are doing a job, and we will continue to do a job. We’re doing what’s right,’ he said as he alluded to the controversy.
Trump, pictured at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for a rally Monday night, drove home his demand that Congress deliver $5 billion he’s seeking in a spending package next month to complete his border wall
Trump reacts before his address to supporters at a Make America Great Again rally in Biloxi, Mississippi
Applauding his administration for showing strength at the border, he told rally-goers in Biloxi, Mississippi: ‘If we didn’t do that you would have hundreds of thousands of people pouring into our country’
Trump in a message on Monday morning threatened to permanently close the U.S. border with Mexico, saying he’ll take the drastic action if members of the swelling migrant caravan are not deported back to their Central American homelands.
It was not clear whether he had the legal authority to do so and whether he had been advised that he does. He did not respond to a question on the issue as he departed the White House on Monday for a pair of rallies in Mississippi.
He insisted to reporters at a roundtable later, though, that he could and would shut it down if he witnesses additional violence.
‘We just said, look, if they come over here, we’re going to apprehend them and we’re going to close the border. That’s not really been done to the extent that I’m doing it – cause I mean it. And I’ll close it for a long time,’ he threatened.
The United States has a trade deal with Mexico on the table that could fall apart if the border debate escalates. Trump said Monday that he didn’t care.
‘As far as trade is concerned, that’s OK. Because Mexico, frankly, has done very well with trade and the United States,’ he said. ‘So, we would close it, and we would keep it closed if we’re going to have a problem. We’ll keep it closed for a long period of time.’
He claimed that ‘with a closed border, it’s very easy stop’ the violence. ‘With an open border, it’s not.’ The president did not elaborate on how refusing to accept all migrants would keep violent ones from rushing the border and assaulting law enforcement.
At a rally for Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is in a sudden-death face off for her Senate seat, Trump the conflict to drive home his demand that Congress deliver $5 billion he’s seeking in a spending package next month to complete his border wall.
‘We defend all sorts of borders. We defend our borders just a little bit, but now we defend our borders very strongly. We defend the borders of other nations. but we don’t defend our borders properly. But that’s all changed since we got elected. We’ve done a good job,’ he boasted.
Trump declared: ‘We’re sending a clear message to the caravans and the trespassers: Turn around, go back home.’
U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego suspended pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry but reopened it Monday; one migrant is pictured running back away from the U.S. with his face covered
Like he did in the federal elections that have already taken place this year, Trump pegged Democrats as ‘the party of caravans and crime’ and claimed the opposing party is for open borders.
‘Republicans are committed to halting this incursion and defending the sovereign territory of the United States of America. We’re very proud of it,’ he said at a Tupelo airport hanger event. ‘We will not tolerate any form of assault or attack upon our border agents, like happened yesterday, or any attempt to destroy federal property, overrun federal authorities or bring chaos and violence to American soil.’
He added, ‘And if you look at what’s happening along the border, you see what’s happening. The mayor of Tijuana, he said, these are tough people. These people fight when you talk to them. These are tough people.
‘We don’t want those people in Mississippi, I’m sorry. Of course I know you’d win the fight, but who needs is. Who needs it. Who needs it,’ he said three times for emphasis.
Trump claimed that Democrats don’t want to have an immigration enforcement division at all and would abolish it if they could so that more illegal immigrants could cross over into the United States and raid the nation’s piggy bank.
‘And we’ve actually started big sections of the wall, but we want to finish the wall. We gotta get funding from Congress, and if this isn’t the right time to get funding, when you look at what’s happening at the border, there’ll never be a right time,’ Trump declared. ‘So we’re going very strongly for funding for the wall.’
Tensions on the border escalated on Sunday with U.S. Border Patrol agents firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at a group of migrants on Sunday, including families with young children, as hundreds of people swarmed the border.
San Diego Sector Border Control chief patrol agent Rodney Scott said Monday morning on CNN that when the migrants who approached ‘immediately started throwing rocks and debris at our agents, taunting our agents,’ and his employees were forced to take action.
‘And once our agents were assaulted and the numbers started growing – you know we had two or three agents at a time facing hundreds of people at a time – they deployed tear gas to protect themselves and protect the border.’
Carla Provost, the chief of U.S. Border Patrol, also told Fox News that ‘our agents were being assaulted. A large group approached the area and they were throwing rocks and bottles at my men and women, putting them in harm’s way as well as other members of the caravan.’
The confrontation produced chaos and new dangers that prompted U.S. officials to close the crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, stopping everyone in their tracks – including thousands travelling legally between the U.S. and Mexico.
The border reopened Monday morning, but Trump tweeted a stern warning to Mexico: Deport the migrants, a horde that includes ‘stone cold criminals,’ or see the economically critical crossing sealed permanently.
He called for Congress to fund his border wall with Mexico at a time when congressional Democrats are counting down the final weeks before they take over the House of Representatives.
‘Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A.,’ Trump tweeted. ‘We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!’
President Donald Trump threatened to ‘permanently’ close the U.S.-Mexico border if members of a migrant caravan who stormed the heavily guarded fences near Tijuana aren’t sent back to their Central American countries
Border Patrol chief Carla Provost, told the Fox News Channel on Monday that ‘our agents were being assaulted’ – as video played of a caravan member hurling a rock toward the border fence
Rodney Scott, the chief border agent in San Diego Sector Border Control, said Monday on CNN that migrants threw rocks that struck U.S. Border Patrol agents and their vehicles, and that groups of them walked past officers instead of surrendering and claiming asylum
The president’s ultimatum played on TV screens worldwide Monday morning, alongside images of children screaming and coughing in Sunday’s mayhem at the San Ysidro Port of Entry as Border Patrol officers tried to push the surging mass of people back.
The crowd control tactics began when migrants tried to cut a hole in razor wire on the Mexican side of the fence.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told CNN on Monday that Border Patrol was guilty of an ‘overuse of force.’
‘There are women and children out there. Using tear gas in this situation does not seem justified,’ he said.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she would not put up with the ‘lawlessness’ and threatened harsh punishments for ‘anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty.’
Nielsen confirmed that border personnel were ‘struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members.’ She condemned those responsible for their ‘dangerous’ actions that were ‘not consistent with peacefully seeking asylum.’
Mexico also vowed to deport about 500 migrants who tried to ‘violently’ and ‘illegally’ cross the U.S. border on Sunday, according to the Mexican Interior Ministry.
More than 5,000 of them, mostly asylum seekers, have been camped in and around a sports complex in Tijuana after making their way through Mexico in recent weeks.
Agents at the San Ysidro entry point are processing fewer than 100 asylum petitions a day.
But Scott, the Border Patrol’s chief agent in San Diego, said Monday legitimate asylum seekers are few and far between.
‘What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum,’ he said. ‘Matter of fact, one of the groups I watched, one of the groups that several of them were arrested, they passed 10 or 15 marked Border Patrol units … numerous uniformed personnel, as they were chanting, waving a Honduran flag, and throwing rocks at the agents.’
Earlier Sunday, several hundred Central American migrants pushed past a blockade of Mexican police who were standing guard near the international border crossing
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum on Friday declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city of 1.6 million, which he says is struggling to accommodate the crush of migrants
Mexican police scramble to form a blockade as they try to stop migrants from reaching the border with the U.S.
American Customs and Border Protection officers form a barrier behind rows of barbed wire to stop the migrants entering
Members of the migrant caravan run for cover after U.S. officers fired tear gas at them during clashes at the border
People attempting to cross in the U.S. look on as the San Ysidro port of entry stands closed at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday
Officials run in a staging area in the San Ysidro port of entry on Sunday
Migrants try to push past Mexican police on the Mexico-U.S. border at the Chaparral crossing in Tijuana on Sunday
A migrant is seen holding rocks in his hands moments before throwing them at U.S. border guards near Tijuana
‘If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have just walked up with their hands up and surrendered. And that did not take place.’
Despite heightened tensions, Mexico said it would not send military forces to control more than 7,000 migrants from a caravan currently amassed at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump on Sunday expressed his displeasure with the caravans in Mexico via Twitter.
‘Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border, or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S. No longer),’ he wrote.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry said Sunday the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans back to their countries of origin since Oct. 19. It said that 1,906 of them were members of the recent caravans.
Mexico is on track to send a total of around 100,000 Central Americans back home by the end of this year.
Earlier on Sunday, Nielsen tweeted Sunday: ‘This AM, @CBP was forced to close the #SanYsidro POE to ensure public safety in response to a large # of migrants seeking to illegally enter the U.S.
‘They attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border & sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles @ them.
‘@DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness & will not hesitate to shut down POEs for security reasons.
‘We’ll seek to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who destroys federal property, endangers our frontline operators, or violates our sovereignty.
‘#CBP along w other DHS, federal, state & local law enforcement, & the @DeptofDefense, have a robust presence along the SW Border and at our POEs. We remain in close contact with Mexican authorities and are committed to resolving this situation safely in concert with them.’
In a later tweet, she condemned members of the caravan throwing objects at border personnel. She wrote: ‘Today CBP (Customs and Border Protection) personnel were struck by projectiles thrown by caravan members.
‘Such actions are dangerous & not consistent w peacefully seeking asylum. The perpetrators will be prosecuted. I will continue to aggressively support DHS personnel as they work to safely secure our border.’
On Friday night, a mother-of-two was impaled after she tried to scale a U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego.
According to U.S. Border Patrol, the 26-year-old woman from Guatemala was with her two children, aged three and five, when she climbed the fence near the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that she climbed a fence east of the port and where construction crews were putting up a new barrier to replace the old fencing.
The mother lost her balance and fell, and pieces of rebar pierced her side and buttocks.
Border Patrol told the Union-Tribune that it was dispatched to give medical aid around 8:30 pm and asked for help from the San Diego Fire Department. The woman was taken to the hospital by paramedics with non-life threatening injuries.
Her children were also evaluated for trauma and, when they were cleared, were released to the custody of Border Patrol.
No information was available on whether the woman was planning to claim asylum in the U.S.